Writing the Cinematic Protagonist: Creating Multi-Dimensional Lead Characters

Hosted by Tyler Ruggeri

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Tyler Ruggeri

Webinar hosted by: Tyler Ruggeri

Writer/Story Consultant

Tyler Ruggeri is a writer with over a decade of experience on both sides of the entertainment industry. His original screenplay The Making Of Rock Hudson sold to veteran producers Celine Rattray (The Kids Are Alright, Bernie) and Trudie Styler (Moon) of Maven Pictures. He is currently adapting a critically acclaimed non-fiction book and writing an original action drama. Prior to his writing career, Tyler was a talent manager at Exile Entertainment, where he represented screenwriters and directors while developing the company’s slate of projects. He signed emerging filmmakers including Lee Patterson (Nicholl Fellowship winner for Snatched) and Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and won three, as well as the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to Whiplash, scripts he developed with clients have sold to A-list producers/financiers, appeared on the annual Black List, and garnered industry attention and assignments from major studios. Apart from screenwriting, Tyler has written advertising and web content for companies such as Baseline, AwesomenessTV, and Tool of North America. He has also served as a development consultant for independent shorts and features. His expertise ranges from story analysis and adaptation to rights issues and Writers Guild arbitrations, with a focus on shaping both the project itself and the writer's individual voice. Tyler is a graduate of Emerson College and began his career in the development/acquisitions department of Focus Features, following dual internships at DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Learn directly from Tyler Ruggeri, a writer, story consultant, and former manager who has developed and sold screenplays to top producers, including his own The Making of Rock Hudson to Maven Pictures! Tyler managed Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and won three, and also won the Best Director Academy Award in 2017.

"Extremely articulate presenter. It really helped to have such specific information about how a character can be multi-dimensional." - Becca Boyd

"I took pages and pages of notes, thank you! Very well delivered, the lecturer had clearly a vast knowledge of the subject. I really enjoyed it!" - Natalie Ekberg

Audiences have been introduced to a number of singular, fully fleshed out lead characters. From the surprisingly dimensional Joy in Inside Out, to two distinct Brian Wilsons in Love & Mercy, to the female road warrior Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, films continue to provide an endless amount of potential for diverse protagonists.

But these characters are often the exception rather than the rule. With a constant parade of franchise sequels, remakes, and reboots, it’s become harder than ever to create a unique and nuanced lead that audiences feel they haven’t seen before. And in a marketplace crowded with more of the same, it’s never been more essential (and potentially lucrative) for screenwriters to set their work apart.

So how can writers create characters that appeal to a wide audience without sacrificing the very qualities that make them singular?

In this exclusive Stage 32 Next Level Webinar, we are thrilled to bring back Tyler Ruggeri to discuss how to write interesting and complicated characters that audiences can root for without sacrificing depth. Having worked both on the writing and management side in Hollywood, Tyler brings uniquely qualified, invaluable experience on Writing The Cinematic Protagonist.

In this webinar, Tyler will focus on studying (and deconstructing) the building blocks of movie protagonists in a straightforward, fun, and easy to digest format. He’ll discuss character in a macro-level approach while zeroing in on recent examples from popular films. Participants will learn that there’s no one way to create a memorable protagonist. But by knowing and staying true to what’s special about your story (and your lead character), you can shape a screenplay that’s fresh and unexpected while remaining accessible to all kinds of viewers.

What You'll Learn

  • What do we mean when we talk about character?
    • Understanding character as both a person and their environment.
  • Everything in your script is a choice.
    • How to make the right choices to present a realistic and definitive protagonist.
  • What does your character want?
    • Externalizing your character’s inner feelings and goals to make them relatable to viewers.
  • Do characters have to be likable?
    • What is “likable” anyway?
    • How “rooting for” a character doesn’t mean what you think it does.
  • What it means for a character to be “unlikable” (and how to avoid this note).
    • How an unlikable character can actually be an asset to your script.
  • Knowing the rules so you can break them.
    • Screenwriting books/blogs/manuals – helpful or harmful?
    • Becoming an avid consumer of what you want to create.
  • The “Stakes”.
    • Development execs always talk about stakes, but what are they?
    • Is an antagonist necessary?
    • Figuring out what’s holding your character back.
  • Peeling back the layers of your character.
    • Structuring your story so we learn more about the protagonist as it goes on.
  • Tricks of the trade.
    • Tips, shortcuts, and other ways to harness your character.
  • Finding out what kind of writer you are.
    • Discover how you specifically approach your characters.
  • Avoid writer’s block.
    • Is writer’s block real?
    • How not to get stuck when mapping out your lead’s journey.
  • Integrating themes.
    • Understanding that WHO your story is about dictates WHAT it’s about.
    • Writing specific characters with universal traits
  • Recorded, in-depth Q&A with Tyler

About Your Instructor

Tyler Ruggeri is a writer with over a decade of experience on both sides of the entertainment industry. His original screenplay The Making Of Rock Hudson sold to veteran producers Celine Rattray (The Kids Are Alright, Bernie) and Trudie Styler (Moon) of Maven Pictures. He is currently adapting a critically acclaimed non-fiction book and writing an original action drama.

Prior to his writing career, Tyler was a talent manager at Exile Entertainment, where he represented screenwriters and directors while developing the company’s slate of projects. He signed emerging filmmakers including Lee Patterson (Nicholl Fellowship winner for Snatched) and Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Adapted Screenplay) and won three, as well as the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In addition to Whiplash, scripts he developed with clients have sold to A-list producers/financiers, appeared on the annual Black List, and garnered industry attention and assignments from major studios.

Apart from screenwriting, Tyler has written advertising and web content for companies such as Baseline, AwesomenessTV, and Tool of North America. He has also served as a development consultant for independent shorts and features. His expertise ranges from story analysis and adaptation to rights issues and Writers Guild arbitrations, with a focus on shaping both the project itself and the writer's individual voice.

Tyler is a graduate of Emerson College and began his career in the development/acquisitions department of Focus Features, following dual internships at DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures.

FAQs

Q: What is the format of a webinar? 
A: Stage 32 Next Level Webinars are typically 90-minute broadcasts that take place online using a designated software program from Stage 32.

Q: Do I have to be located in a specific location?
A: No, you can participate from the comfort of your own home using your personal computer! If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the webinar.

Q: What are the system requirements?
A: You will need to meet the following system requirements in order to run the webinar software: Windows 7 or later Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
If you have Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion): The webinar software does not support these operating systems. If you are running one of those operating systems, please upgrade now in order to be able to view a live webinar. Upgrade your Windows computer / Upgrade your Mac computer 

Q: What if I cannot attend the live webinar?
A: If you attend a live online webinar, you will be able to communicate directly with your instructor during the webinar. If you cannot attend a live webinar and purchase an On-Demand webinar, you will have access to the entire recorded broadcast, including the Q&A. 

Q: Will I have access to the webinar afterward to rewatch?
A: Yes! After the purchase of a live or On-Demand webinar, you will have on-demand access to the audio recording, which you can view as many times as you'd like for a whole year! 

Testimonials

"I took pages and pages of notes, thank you! Very well delivered, the lecturer had clearly a vast knowledge of the subject. I really enjoyed it!" - Natalie Ekberg

"Extremely articulate presenter. It really helped to have such specific information about how a character can be multi-dimensional." - Becca Boyd

"I took Tyler's class on writing a true story, and I found him to be the most knowledgeable and helpful on the topic of any other courses I heard on the subject, and very compelling to listen to and learn from. He represents the material strongly and in a way that can be digested for the listener. I found him to be a good teacher on the subjects he knows so well, which is not always easy to find. And on top of it all, he is very approachable and responsive after the class if you have any further questions. Whatever classes he offers, I will definitely be attending." – Anthony Buono

 

"I took Tyler's class on writing a true story, and I found him to be the most knowledgeable and helpful on the topic of any other courses I heard on the subject, and very compelling to listen to and learn from. He represents the material strongly and in a way that can be digested for the listener. I found him to be a good teacher on the subjects he knows so well, which is not always easy to find. And on top of it all, he is very approachable and responsive after the class if you have any further questions. Whatever classes he offers, I will definitely be attending." – Anthony Buono

"Recently I asked Tyler to help develop a short script I'd been working on. Tyler's experience with story and structure were invaluable, while his eye to producing and the practical aspects of filmmaking kept things firmly grounded. This in addition to a creative mind and collaborative style that really worked for me." - Tim Immordino, Producer

"I took Tyler’s class to have a clearer understanding of developing biopics. Not only did it give me a better understanding, it also gave me tools to help communicate much easier with the writers I’m currently developing true stories with." - Angie Lee Cobbs, Producer (Untitled Dinah Washington Project)

Questions?

If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.
 

Reviews Average Rating: 5 out of 5

  • I took pages and pages of notes, thank you! Very well delivered, the lecturer had clearly a vast knowledge of the subject. I really enjoyed it!
  • Extremely articulate presenter. It really helped to have such specific information about how a character can be multi-dimensional.

Other education that may be of interest to you:

The Keys to Writing True Stories, Biopics, and Adaptations

Learn directly from Tyler Ruggeri, a screenwriter and former manager with a decade of experience on both sides of the film industry! Since its inception, Hollywood has made films about or inspired by real people and events. In recent years, the "biopic" has become one of the most prestigious and in-demand genres, and six of the nine 2014 Best Picture nominees are based in reality. Compelling true stories are constantly sought after and frequently top The Black List. From CAPOTE to MILK to THE SOCIAL NETWORK to LINCOLN to THE WOLF OF WALL STREET to 12 YEARS A SLAVE, we'll discuss what makes fact-based films viable today, and more importantly how to separate yours from the rest of the pack. This involves shaping the facts of your story into a fictional narrative that supports your unique point of view. We'll also explore the specific steps involved, such as research, story structure, legal issues, and the best way to position your project in a competitive market. While parts of certain films will be mentioned in detail, only a familiarity with the genre is necessary - we won't be studying examples from beginning to end. This overview will serve as an in-depth primer not just for biopic writers, but for all writers to discover stories that can excite and move today's audiences.

Feature Writing Workshop: What’s Next For Your Script?

  Week 1: Introduction & Concept/Theme – Every script begins with an idea. I’ll give an intro to the workshop process and discuss the basics of crafting a script with a strong central premise. Week 2: Character – Great scripts revolve around great characters. In this session, we’ll explore how to create compelling, three-dimensional characters that jump off the page and attract talent. Week 3: Plot/Structure – Plotting and structure are among the most difficult elements for any writer to master. We’ll dive into examples and determine how it’s best to craft a strong (but not necessarily conventional) storyline. Week 4: Dialogue & Where to Go From Here – Truthful and natural-sounding dialogue is the secret weapon of any screenplay. We’ll end the workshop by discussing the subtle ways dialogue can improve any script, and writers will determine their plans moving forward. In addition to the scheduled topics, I’ll also speak on general dos and don’ts in the industry, advice on getting representation, and other issues creatives commonly face. Writers are encouraged to participate and ask any questions that would be helpful for their projects or overall career goals.  

Feature Writing Workshop: What’s Next For Your Script?

  Week 1: Introduction & Concept/Theme – Every script begins with an idea. I’ll give an intro to the workshop process and discuss the basics of crafting a script with a strong central premise. Week 2: Character – Great scripts revolve around great characters. In this session, we’ll explore how to create compelling, three-dimensional characters that jump off the page and attract talent. Week 3: Plot/Structure – Plotting and structure are among the most difficult elements for any writer to master. We’ll dive into examples and determine how it’s best to craft a strong (but not necessarily conventional) storyline. Week 4: Dialogue & Where to Go From Here – Truthful and natural-sounding dialogue is the secret weapon of any screenplay. We’ll end the workshop by discussing the subtle ways dialogue can improve any script, and writers will determine their plans moving forward. In addition to the scheduled topics, I’ll also speak on general dos and don’ts in the industry, advice on getting representation, and other issues creatives commonly face. Writers are encouraged to participate and ask any questions that would be helpful for their projects or overall career goals.  

Jason Mirch - Producer

Jason got his start with Evolution Entertainment, moved into Studio Development, and now independently producers and writes. We discuss what makes a project marketable, how to push your career forward industry trends, & more, plus a live Q&A!

Distinct Dialogue & Character Voices

When your characters each have their own voice, you should be able to tell them apart by their dialogue alone. We challenged you to write a scene removing all character names and descriptions so that each character is distinguishable by their dialogue alone.

How to Write Memorable Characters - It's All About Your "Hero's Journey"

4-PART CLASS (OVER 8 HOURS OF EDUCATION!) NOW AVAILABLE ON-DEMAND! 4 part class taught by Ross Putman, award-winning producer! Ross's accomplishments include: First Girl I Loved (premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival), The Young Kieslowski (winner of the LA Film Festival), Bad Samaratians (co-produced for Netflix/FOX), and he was the former creative executive at Ineffable Pictures! From Casablanca to Breaking Bad, the reason you remember these stories is because of the compelling protagonist at their core. Their journey is why we tune in, and the way they change is the reason we root for them to succeed (or in some cases, fail). But character can be a tricky piece of the puzzle for screenwriters, especially in Hollywood’s concept-driven environment. Ultimately, great cinema is based on great characters, and this 4 part class is intended to help you find your character, make them real, and build a story around their journey—all the while staying within the realm of commercial modern cinema. Stage 32 is excited to bring you the previously-recorded 4 part class: It's All About Your “Hero's Journey” - How to Write Memorable Characters taught by Ross Putman, award-winning producer. To find out more, click the "What You'll Learn" tab above! This 4-part class offers insight into case studies to help you as a writer form a comparison to inform your own writing. In addition, you will walk away with tools and techniques to apply to your own writing! On-demand classes are discounted and purchasing gives you access to the previously-recorded live class which has over 8 hours of education! Although Ross is no longer reviewing the assignments, we still encourage all listeners to participate to help continue to hone their own writing skills!

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